Man Says He Fathered Baby To Kill It
Jun. 28, 1999
FRANKLIN, Ind. (AP) _ Ronald L. Shanabarger planned his revenge against his wife for several years: He wanted to father their son and then kill him, police said.
Shanabarger told police he planned the crime as a way of exacting punishment on his wife, Amy, who had refused to cut short a vacation to comfort him when his father passed away.
``Shanabarger said he planned to make Amy feel the way he did when his father died,'' according to an affidavit prosecutors filed to support a murder charge.
Last Tuesday, just hours after the funeral of his seven-month-old son, Tyler, Shanabarger confessed to his wife that he'd killed their son. A coroner had ruled the infant died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The next day, Shanabarger allegedly told police he suffocated his infant son with plastic wrap. He told officers he dreamed up the crime after his father died in 1996.
The affidavit said Shanabarger's plan included marrying Amy and getting her pregnant. He then ``allowed time for her to bond with the child, and then took his life,'' the affidavit said.
Shanabarger, 30, who begged officers to shoot him after he confessed last Wednesday, is being held without bail. He is due in court today.
Johnson County Prosecutor Lance Hamner hasn't decided whether to seek the death penalty because the investigation is ongoing.
``It's the most bizarre case that I've ever had any dealings with and probably the most bizarre motive I've ever heard of,'' Hamner said Sunday.
In his confession, Shanabarger said that on the evening of June 19, he wrapped plastic wrap around his son's head and face, then left the boy's nursery to get something to eat and brush his teeth.
Twenty minutes later, he said, he returned, removed the plastic and placed Tyler face down in the crib before he went to bed.
Amy Shanabarger, 29, had been working that night at her job as a cashier at a grocery store. When she came home, she went straight to bed, assuming that Tyler was asleep, and found the boy's body the next morning _ Father's Day.
Shanabarger, who worked at a tire retreading center, told police he confessed because the image of his son's face _ flat and purplish from rigor mortis _ haunted him.
Since then, he's confessed at least three times, Police Chief Harry Furrer said Sunday. Each time, the story has been the same _ that he hatched his plan because he was enraged by his then-girlfriend's refusal to cut short a cruise and return home after his father's death in October 1996.
The Shanabargers were married the following May.
Detectives, who have interviewed relatives, confirmed that Shanabarger had long resented Amy's refusal to cut the cruise short, Furrer said. ``Their statements substantiate his confession,'' he said.
The Rev. Randy Maynard, a volunteer chaplain for Franklin police, accompanied officers to the couple's home in this town south of Indianapolis on Father's Day.
While most parents of children who die from SIDS are weeping and consoling each other when authorities arrive, Maynard said Shanabarger was cold, distant and offered no comfort to his sobbing wife.
And after Mrs. Shanabarger's parents arrived later that morning, Shanabarger gave his father-in-law a Father's Day gift _ a gift-wrapped commemorative knife _ Maynard said. Shanabarger then passed the knife around, showing it to the officers.
``That really struck me as odd,'' he said.
Maynard said he's still troubled by the image of Tyler's tiny face.
``He was a beautiful boy,'' he said. ``Even in death, he was just the most beautiful boy. I'm still getting goose bumps thinking about this guy.''
Shanabarger's father-in-law, Robert Parsons, wears a tiny gold cherub pin to remind him of his grandson, who was born Thanksgiving Day. He won't discuss his son-in-law, but says his daughter, an only child, is devastated.
``I don't want people to just to talk about a six- or seven-month-old infant _ a nameless, faceless infant. He was a little boy, he played, he laughed, he loved. We loved him dearly and that's what this is all about,'' said Parsons, 52.
``We don't want vengeance, but we do want justice.''
Neil S. Kaye, a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in investigating infanticide cases committed by fathers, said he's never heard of a similar crime.
``A lot of times people say this or that crime was just too complicated of a plan to be anything other than a sign of pure wickedness,'' said Kaye, of Wilmington, Del.
``But science would say otherwise, that this man was delusional and you have to wonder about his overall mental state, his mental capacity,'' said Kaye.